1. Pharos courses in March 2023

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    We have some great courses coming for you in the next month, including the brand new course: Understanding Title Deeds, from Susan Moore.

    Pharos courses in March 2023


    Understanding Title Deeds


    Pharos Tutors SUsan Moore

    Tutor: Susan Moore
    Start date: 1st March 2023
    Course length: 4 weeks

    Title Deeds, documenting the ownership of land and property, are to be found in almost all record repositories, whether they be from a solicitors collection, a large family estate collection, individual documents from a variety of sources, or part of the National Archives. This course, suitable for both family and local historians, aims to introduce the records in a practical way, to enable researchers to find them, to understand the different types of deeds, and, crucially, to be able to interpret them.

    As with so many apparently impenetrable records, there are short cuts and clues and hints to eliciting the information from them. Family history information can include details of marriages, relationships and the social circle of friends amongst whom people moved. Local history and house history information can include detailed descriptions of land, with names of tenants, acreages, land use, and neighbouring plots of land and houses.

    This course is part of our Advanced Certificate programme but can also be taken in isolation.

    Susan Moore has taught a combined title deeds and Chancery record course for Pharos for many years, but this year we decided we needed to give you more, dedicating a full four weeks to these important records. A separate course Family Feuds – how to find and interpret Chancery court records, follows in April.


    Before the Modern Census – Name-rich sources
    from 1690 to 1837

    Tutor: Else Churchill 
    Start date: 7th March 2023
    Course length: 4 weeks


    FHSS Intermediate Certificate
    The course considers the records to consult before the census records of names, ages, birthplaces and the household address of a family. Attention is paid to a variety of lists which reveal where someone lived at a particular time. Over four lessons you will learn about the introduction of newspapers, the earliest efforts at census taking, and what other records are considered to be useful census substitutes. Census substitutes are often quite local in scope and purpose. Many will be explained and advice will be given on how to search for local lists. You will come away with an understanding of how to make the most of census substitutes, some new online search skills, and an ability to assess and access these sources.

    Lesson Headings:

    • Different world, different sources
    • The first enumerations, 1801 – 1831
    • Landowners, Traders and Freemen
    • Census substitutes and name-rich lists


    Previous students said: “A very interesting course positively loaded with information… A very knowledgable and helpful tutor.”


    Practicalities of a One Name Study

    Tutor: Julie Goucher
    Start date: 7th March 2023
    Course length: 5 weeks (4 lessons)

    Guild of One Name StudiesThe course is designed to enable students to explore the practical steps of maintaining and developing their one-name study through a variety of media and to give some context to the various considerations they will need to explore.

    It is expected that students for this course will already have a one-name study or surname study registered, or will have identified a surname to register and begin working upon.

    Lesson Headings:

    • Week 1: Understanding and making the best use of spreadsheets in your study
    • Week 2: Genealogical Software, what to consider
    • Week 3: (Reading week)
    • Week 4: Online Trees and other software
    • Week 5: The next steps: Preservation and Sharing



    Are You Sitting Comfortably? Writing and Telling Your Family History

    Tutor: Janet Few
    Start date: 13th March 2023
    Course length: 5 weeks

    Writing your family history

    This hugely popular course from Janet Few begins with advice on making decisions about what to write about, what to include and how to make some order out of the potential chaos of information. It goes on to discover the historical context and look at adding interest into your story with background about what was happening nationally and locally and how this might have affected your ancestors. The course also looks at how knowledge about occupations can bring an ancestor to life and how and why social history helps you to make sense of it all and can frame your story. Finally, in week five, you will discover how to add photos and other illustrations as well as learn about options for publishing.

    This course is about acquiring skills that will help you to present your family history in a coherent and interesting way.

    If you wish to receive feedback on your writing, there is the option to submit a piece of writing of up to 3,000 words for marking. You will have at least six weeks after the course finishes, before this needs to be sent to the tutor.

    Previous students said: “The course has provided me with everything I could possibly need (and more) to sort out my main goals of prioritising family history, research, recording and writing up the stories during the coming year and beyond. I now know the way ahead and am very much looking forward to putting my plans into action.”



    That’s all for this month, happy studying!


  2. Pursuing Probates

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    This is a guest post by Andrew Millard who maintains a very useful webpage listing probate records

    Probate records are a gold mine of information for genealogists, but the records can be hard to find. Prior to the creation of national civil probate courts (1858 in England, Wales and Ireland, 1876 in Scotland) one has to search the records of local, regional and national jurisdictions depending on where one’s ancestor owned property, and that means searching multiple indexes or calendars and accessing records from various archives.
    For over 30 years I have been conducting a one-name study of the name Bodimeade, and ten years ago I had reached a point where I decided that a systematic check of every probate index was the next logical step. I also had some other surnames where I regularly collected all references in pre-1850 or pre-1800 records as I found them (in case you are interested: Brooksby, Littlechild, Redington, Spriddle), and intended to collect all the index entries for them as well. So how did I go about it?
    I started with the book Probate Jurisdictions: where to look for wills by Jeremy Gibson and Else Churchill which describes the area cover by each court and lists all known indexes (and their deficiencies). Although it was last updated in 2002 this book is invaluable as a concise guide to the courts, the printed indexes and the locations of the original records. My copy is very well thumbed!
    As I have easy access to a major research library, I started by systematically working through all the probate indexes published by the British Record Society. Then I went to Probate Jurisdictions to identify other indexes and checked as many of them as were in the library. I made slow but steady progress in lunchtime sessions in the library, but after a while it became obvious that there were new indexes appearing that weren’t in Probate Jurisdictions, so I started annotating my copy and checking them as well.
    It’s all very well writing ‘see BRS 102, 108, 111’ in the margin of book to denote a new set of indexes for the London Commissary Court but I soon started finding online indexes, and added notes like ‘online index bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Leisure-Culture/records-and-archives/bristol-wills-index-1793-1858.en’ for the Bristol Consistory Court. When I revisited an index that had to be typed out again, and I decided that I’d be better off creating a webpage with the links in. So my page Recent Indexes to English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish Probate Records was born, initially just for my own use. As it developed I made it public because it seemed others could benefit from my efforts in compiling it.
    Since then it has growed like Topsy. Although I have tried not to duplicate material from Probate Jurisdictions, I have included older indexes that have been scanned and placed online. I periodically search sites with major collections of scanned books, like archive.org and books.familysearch.org for newly scanned indexes. In doing this I’ve found a handful that were omitted from Probate Jurisdictions. That might be because they are superseded by a later index, but in some cases I know of no other index.
    New indexes are coming out frequently, and existing ones move to new web addresses, so it is a never-ending task to keep my list up-to-date. Even if it is up-to-date it is not comprehensive, as many indexes published in the 20th century are in copyright and not digitised. So please do use my list to find indexes to pursue probates relating to your ancestors, but don’t forget to refer to Probate Jurisdictions to find indexes only available in print. Inevitably you will want to look at original documents not just an index, and if images of the originals are not online, then Probate Jurisdictions: where to look for wills will tell you where to find them.
    About Andrew:  Apart from his full-time day job teaching at Durham University, Andrew somehow finds time to act in the following capacities;
    Chair, Trustees of Genuki: www.genuki.org.uk
    Maintainer, Genuki Middx + London: www.genuki.org.uk/big/eng/MDX/ + ../LND/
    Academic Co-ordinator, Guild of One-Name Studies: www.one-name.org
    Bodimeade one-name study: community.dur.ac.uk/a.r.millard/genealogy/Bodimeade/
    My genealogy: community.dur.ac.uk/a.r.millard/genealogy/